Amid tensions, Obama, Putin put on a happy face

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — If there are any additional talks between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Russia, they’ll be private ones.

Obama and Putin shook hands, smiled and made small talk about the scenery today as Obama arrived at St. Petersburg’s Constantine Palace. It was their only planned one-on-one appearance. But they could talk again on the sidelines of the summit, including tonight at a leaders’ dinner where Syria is expected to be discussed.

Syria is once source of the renewed tensions between Washington and Moscow, as Russia stands by its ally Bashar Assad and blocks U.N. action against Syria in the aftermath of last month’s chemical weapons attack. The U.S. was also angered by Russia’s decision to grant asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

And tomorrow, Obama will call attention to another area of disagreement, when he meets in St. Petersburg with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists. A new Russian law banning gay propaganda has caused concern about the country’s role as host of the Winter Olympics in February.

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164-w-36-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent, with Russian President Vladimir Putin)–President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have had a businesslike greeting at the start of the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. ((opens with sound)) (5 Sep 2013)

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154-r-34-(Sound of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Russian, welcoming President Barack Obama and other leaders at the start of the G-20 Summit meetings)–This is sound of Russian President Vladimir Putin, welcoming President Barack Obama and other leaders at the start of the G-20 Summit meetings. (5 Sep 2013)

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GRAPHICSBANK: Vladimir Putin, as President of Russia, and Barack Obama, as US President, (l-r), shake hands during arrivals for the G-20 summit, Konstantin Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, graphic element on gray (5 Sep 2013)

APPHOTO RUSM127: President Barack Obama shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during arrivals for the G-20 summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool) (5 Sep 2013)

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APPHOTO VLM196: U.S. President Barack Obama listens to statements during a round table meeting at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool) (5 Sep 2013)

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